Forest Lakes Golf Club hosts tournament

     On March 8, 14 teams will play head-to-head in the Third Annual Supporters Tournament at ABAC’s Forest Lakes Golf Club. The tournament begins at 8:30 a.m. with a shotgun start in a four-person scramble.

     The competition will include the 13 teams going for the longest drive and the closest to the pin. The cost for a four-person team to enter is $225. Individuals can enter for $60. All proceeds will help benefit the Forest Lakes Golf Club Fund that will go towards renovations and improvements for the course.

     The sponsorship levels include both platinum and silver; platinum includes hole sponsorship, lunch and four participants for $750, silver includes hole sponsorship, lunch and four participants for $650.

     If anyone is interested in participating, checks can be made out to the ABAC Foundation and sent to Deidre Martin, ABAC Foundation, Box 13, 2802 Moore Highway, Tifton, GA, 31793. You can also call (229) 391-4897 for a credit card payment or any information that you might need. Deidre Martin’s email is or you can call her at (229) 391-4907.


Sports Spotlight: Recreational Sports Director Jason Pace

     Even with life’s ups and downs, Recreational Sports Director, Jason Pace, has found a home within ABAC. Pace said, “I get to be a big kid every day pretty much, I get to set up all these games for students to play.”

     As an actual kid, he relished his life in sports and claims he was never without a ball or bat in his hand. “My parents tell me they had me at two out in the backyard hitting a ball, and while I have no recollection of that,” he chuckled, “I do remember it was always a ball in my hand, soccer ball at my feet playing some type of sport.”

    Pace is from a small town in Virginia and went to Bradford University for his undergraduate, majoring in Media Studies with a concentration in journalism and a minor in sports administration. After his time at Bradford, Pace pursued his education further at Highpoint University, where he received his Master’s in Sports Studies. When he graduated in 2009, the economy was in turmoil and Pace spent the next three years looking for a full-time job.

     Afterward, he became the Assistant Coordinator of Facility Services at Ferrum College for about six months. Then, he looked to his alma mater where he became the Coordinator for Facilities and Operations at Bradford University and spent four years there. On Aug. 1, 2017, Pace started his first day at ABAC.

     When he started his education, Pace didn’t expect it to be the ride it’s been. “In high school, I thought ‘what better thing to do than to go cover games…’ I’d do college game sets for high school games with the group of people I hung out with.”

     In 2007, Pace began to pay attention to the economy. “I don’t want to say journalism became a dying industry, but the jobs out there were not nearly as plentiful as when I started college in 2003.”

     With the goal to still end up doing sports, Pace became extremely involved in his campus intramural teams. It led him to where he is today, and he attributes it to the lifelong connections he found on the field. “A lot of the guys I met in college, we met through intramural, and we’ve all gone to vacations together, been at each other’s weddings. Being able to see people make that connection is an awesome thing as well.”


Local sumo wrestlers place second in nationals

     Tifton- A group of locals defy stereotypes in sumo wrestling and prepared for the United States Sumo Nationals North American Championships World Team Trials. The competition took place on Feb. 9, in St. Joseph, Missouri.   

     The group trains out of Redemption Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Tifton. The head trainer at the gym, Joshua Clements, added sumo wrestling to the list of fighting sports that the gym has training sessions for. When Clements met Eric Griffin, a passionate sumo enthusiast, the two worked together to bring sumo wrestling to Tifton.

     After Griffin’s coach moved to Florida, he was left with the leadership of the Atlanta Sumo Club. In need of a proper training facility, Griffin met Clements through a sumo demonstration at a jiu-jitsu tournament. Griffin came with the knowledge and training in the sport of sumo, and Clements gave him a place to train with others who were interested in the sport.

     Eric Griffin remembers being interested in sumo wrestling from an early age and watched the sport on television every chance he had. “I used to joke that I would move to Japan and become a sumo wrestler, but I had no idea that there were people in the U.S. that actually do sumo,” said Griffin.

Head Coach at Redemption Jiu Jitsue Academy, Joshua Clements (left) stands with the Tifton Sumo Club. This is the only sumo club in South Georgia. The closest club to Tifton is in Atlanta. Photo by Billy Ray Malone.

      A training session at the gym consists of stretching and warming up. Then the wrestlers go over techniques and ceremonial procedures for a sumo wrestling match. Afterward, the club starts constantly rotating in the ring, lining up against each other.

     The closest sumo wrestling club around, besides Tifton, is in Atlanta. However, Tifton has more sumo wrestlers than the Atlanta club. The club in Atlanta has three people, and the Tifton club has over 10 people.

     A year and a half later, Clements has seen some people sumo wrestling as an activity, but most people enjoy watching it more.

     “It isn’t like watching jiu-jitsu, where you have to know something in order to understand what you’re seeing. In sumo, it doesn’t require you to know anything about the sport for people to understand what is going on in the ring,” said Clements.

     This was their first time competing in Sumo World Team Trials. The event hosted over 5,000 people in the arena comprised of wrestlers and spectators. Both Clements and Jacob Gill placed second in their weight class. The wrestlers from Tifton could represent the U.S. in the 2019 World Sumo Championship in Hawaii if something kept the first place winners from competing.

     After starting in Japan over 2,000 years ago, it began flourishing as a spectator sport until the 1600s. It is Japan’s national sport, and there has been a push to get it added to the Olympics.

     Clements is proud to bring some Japanese culture to Tifton. “What’s really cool about doing what we do is, we are bringing a small part of Japanese culture, Japanese art to Tifton and to the South Georgia area.”

     Professional sumo wrestlers compete in one general open weight class. Wrestlers could potentially go against somebody twice their size, but proper technique and form are the ultimate deciding factor more often than weight.

     An example of technique overcoming weight happened at the U.S. Sumo Open in 2013. The 175-pound American wrestler Liz Seward defeated a 400-pound British wrestler named Sharran Alexander. Seward demonstrated that sumo wrestling isn’t all about how much you weigh; it’s about using your strengths to overcome your opponent’s weakness.

Joshua Clements wrestles against Jace Nipper during sumo training before the national competition. Photo by Billy Ray Malone

     According to Clements, the medium size wrestlers do better in the open-weight division. “They are big enough to push around the light-weights and fast enough to out-maneuver the heavy wrestlers.”

     Amateur sumo wrestlers are split into weight classes, both males and females compete against each other. The group from Tifton that competed in Sumo Nationals focused on the amateur competition.

A round usually lasts anywhere between 5-15 seconds, but can potentially last several minutes. The sport is all about tradition, spirituality, technique and raw physical power.

The winner is decided by pushing the opponent outside of the ring, or by forcing the opponent to touch the ground with anything other than the foot.

While the group was in Missouri for the competition, a youth wrestling tournament was held close-by. The group participated in a youth outreach program to get children interested in sumo wrestling.

In Japan, the sport of sumo wrestling has declined in viewership as it competes next to western sports, such as basketball and baseball. The same cannot be said for the U.S.

Redemption Jiu-Jitsu Academy recommends the sport of sumo to all ages. The sport is suitable for children and can be a strong confidence-building activity.

“When we have kids in the gym training, they always ask ‘can we sumo wrestle today,’” Clements said when explaining that this was a child-friendly sport.

If anybody at ABAC is interested in sumo wrestling, you can email Clements at to find out more.


ABAC becomes first college in Learn-to-Hunt

     ABAC has been hosting “Learn-to-Hunt,” as an interactive and hands-on experience that teaches students the basics of becoming an active hunter. The Georgia Wildlife Federation (GWF) has chosen ABAC as the pilot institution for the program. If all goes well with this test, the GWF will consider expanding the program to other colleges.

     Parker Gerdes, Campus R3 Coordinator, has been spearheading the movement on the ground: “There haven’t really been any efforts before to try to recruit college-age students into the program, and since there’s been a decline in hunters, they’re trying to get more students interested this way.”

     On Feb. 2, about a dozen participants and mentors met in the YOW front lot before signing a waiver and then carpooling to the land of an ABAC Alumnus. Once there, instructors went through the basics of gun safety and trigger discipline. Following an inspection and dry firing of the pump-action shotgun, the students would be using—Dr. Vanessa Lane and an assistant set up small targets in a patch of woods. Once all students had gotten the opportunity to dry fire, all participants live fired until they hit a target.

Parker Gerdes shows students the basics to a pump-action shotgun. Photo by Ricky Rodriguez.

     ABAC was chosen because “we’re big into the Natural Resource Program and following a pilot study at UGA, we were one of the first colleges that attracted it,” Gerdes continues, “we’re located near the Georgia Wildlife Federation so location-wise, we’re a good place to start.”

     On Feb. 7, Dr. Vanessa Lane led “Squirrel Biology and Hunting Strategy,” a three-hour course in YOW 103 on the two types of squirrels they would be hunting: the gray squirrel and the fox squirrel. The class was also used as a refresher on gun safety, as well as a look at the land for their first evening hunt, which took place Feb. 9 at Chickasawhatchee Wildlife Management Area in Calhoun County.

     Gerdes hopes that with a good experience, “they may be able to continue it at ABAC and then reach out to other colleges as well. It’s something to be excited about.”


Sports Spotlight: Head Athletics Trainer Donna Sledge

     Having worked with ABAC for 15 years, Donna Sledge has always had the well-being of ABAC’s student-athletes on her mind. She started working with ABAC in 2003 as an adjunct professor and in 2010 she was hired as ABAC’s first full-time athletic trainer.

     With experience as a Licensed Athletic Trainer for over 25 years, she is also a National Board Certified Trainer and a Georgia Medical Board Licensed Certified Athletic Trainer. With this knowledge, she has the qualifications to make sure ABAC’s athletes are healthy.

     She didn’t start off studying to be an athletic trainer, but as a political science major at Valdosta State University.

     Before working with ABAC, Donna worked with many professional teams and events as a trainer. While working in Memphis, TN providing medical care for local colleges and high schools, she was recruited to become a founding member of Baptist Sports Medicine in Nashville, TN under NATA Hall of fame member­—First President of Georgia Athletic Trainers Association and currently Athletic Trainer for Florida State University—Nick Pappas.

     While working in Tennesse, Donna worked with a variety of professional sports teams like the Tennesse Titans, Nashville Sounds Minor League Baseball, Nashville Knights and Nashville Predators hockey teams. She also covered professional events like the National Longhorn Rodeo Association, Olympic Water Polo, National Gymnastics and National Ice Skating, to name a few.

     When she returned to Georgia and began working with ABAC, Donna said she loved it. “Working in Tifton placed me near my family. Working at ABAC was coming home. Working at ABAC has allowed me to give back to the community and region I love.”

     Here at ABAC, Donna continues doing what she loves: working with talented athletes to reach their goals by making sure they stay healthy.

      “I care about how they feel, where they have pain and I understand their desire to play quickly and safely.” Donna said, “Athletes trust I will help them heal when they are injured, helping them recover and getting them back to their sport at the same level or better.”

     Donna plans to keep working with Director Alan Kramer, Shirley Wilson and the coaching staff in the Athletic Department to help ABAC’s athletes succeed, not only on the field but also off the field.